Friday, May 17, 2013

Food allergy awareness week... Or lifetime

In case you missed it, today concludes Food Allergy Awareness Week in the US. I find this mostly a joke for me, as it's food allergy awareness day for me all day, every day. For my entire life! Can you feel the excitement!

It used to be simple for me. We figured out pretty darn early that I was allergic to nuts. But when I got to be an adult I slowly started getting strange rashes all over that wouldn't go away. We thought it was just eczema like I mentioned in my last post, but alas, that was wishful thinking. No, I'm mildly allergic to peanuts and severely allergic to...get this....cinnamon.

When I discovered the peanut allergy I purged all of the peanut products from the house, which pretty much amounted to peanut butter cups and a couple tubs of peanut butter. The cinnamon has been harder. Cinnamon doesn't have to be labeled in the US, it can fall under the generic term "spices" or "natural flavors."

Did you know that Coca-Cola has a cinnamon derivative in it? Apparently it does. Something called cinnamic aldehyde. I'm allergic to Coke. I'm allergic to Coke?! No wonder my stomach always got super upset when I drank that, but was okay with Pepsi.

What this has meant is that we've had to purge the kitchen of anything that has "natural flavorings" or "spices" in it. We finished that process right before I started this blog, but it's still a problem. Stuff sneaks into the house. Look, a new candy I want to try! Look, a baking mix that sounds tasty! Look, a can of iced tea mix that gives me rashes that last for half a week!

I bought this huge container (it was almost 16" tall) a few weeks ago because it looked like it would make good tea. "Natural flavors" it said. But did I listen to my gut and put it back? No. It was new and exciting, like many of the useless toys I buy in my life. 

I then realized that I was suddenly getting my characteristic cinnamon rash on the days when I drank it. I kept drinking it. I couldn't bear the idea of wasting $6 worth of tea. 

Apparently even when my knuckles, wrists, crooks of my arms, cheeks, and corners of my mouth are actually blistering and turning bright red, I'm still afraid of wasting anything. 

I finally convinced myself to heft the tub into the office. I left it on a counter with a "free" sign on it, and by lunch it had been taken. I felt a little better because it didn't go in the trash, but the urge to not waste anything is strong with this one!

How do all of you get rid of stuff that you're afraid will go to waste? 


  1. I gotta say, I am WAY too familiar with this topic. I'm wondering if you and I aren't joined at the cosmic hip or something, we seem to have all the same "issues."

    Anyhow, I'm allergic to a bunch of things that fall into the "spices" category and it is just. so. frustrating! Just last night I put some "garlic pepper" on my rice and promptly started to itch. Silly me... I assumed that "garlic pepper" was garlic and pepper. Oh no... there were god-know-what "natural flavorings" in there. I'm guessing parsley by the sudden onset of my symptoms. Sigh.

    Anyhow, I went through the spice cabinet with a fine toothed comb and pulled out half a dozen things with undeclared spices in them. One would think I would have learned this lesson my now.

    The absolute worst is when you spend hours making a big batch of something, and take one bite and start to break out. And it's not like you can post "a pot of homemade chili" on FreeCycle or something like that.

    Anyhow, I have a bag of spices that I now have to find new homes for. Grrrr... someday maybe the FDA will decide that people like you and I matter enough to require ALL ingredients to be listed - but I'm not holding my breath!

    1. oh yes! If I'm ever in Denver again we'll have to get together.
      Ditto on the wishing the FDA would make people label spices. We're starting to think that my remaining rashes are caused by rosemary. No idea how I'm ever going to avoid that! But parsley? it's everywhere. I suppose it's a good incentive to stay home and cook instead of spending money on eating out.

  2. I'm lucky enough not to have any allergies yet discovered (yey!), but I do still have issues with letting stuff go to waste...I'll make myself drink/eat something up, even if I don't like it (such as nettle tea...cleansing, virtuous, yuck!)
    Luckily with any slightly old and disgusting veg, the chickens will dispose of it for me and turn it into eggs.

    I currently have lots of crap in the spare room waiting to go to charity...what I have most trouble with is lotions, nail varnish etc which are opened...need to find a willing recipient!

  3. Cinnamon is also on my list of things I'm allergic to! Though only the cinnamon added to things. If I use a cinnamon stick (the real thing) instead of cinnamon powder or other cinnamon-like things, I don't get eczema (though I shouldn't eat toooo much of it :P). So it's only the processed/synthetical stuff. Coincidentally I wrote something about it on my weblog yesterday... It's because of a perfume allergy. The dermatologist gave me a list of ingredients and cinnamon-like things are also in shampoo etc.
    The list I got for the cinnamon-like things is in products like shampoo:
    Cinnamyl alcohol, cinnamal, hydroxycitronellal, amyl cinnamal, geraniol, eugenol, iso-eugenol, Evernia prunastri
    And for additives in food, the cinnamon-like things are E906 (gum benzoic) and E1501 (benzylated hydrocarbons). There are a few others related to flavourings as well, but those two are the most important ones for "cinnamon".
    And when it says "natural flavouring", it isn't really natural but natural-like (I researched this for the Dutch ingredient, but I think it's the same world-wide).

    If I find food in my cupboard I can't eat anymore, I give it to my boyfriend or if he doesn't like/want it, to other friends or family.
    I see EcoCatLady wrote that you can't put food on Freecycle... But there's a Dutch site where you can also offer free things and there is a page for food there ;)

    1. Cinnamal = cinnamic aldehyde in Dutch (and in English apparently too), 'cinnamal' is the INCI name (and can also be in food, it's in E906).
      E906 contains eugenol and "vanilla flavour" (the same problem, fake vanilla, lots of eczema :P) as well. The 'fake vanilla' is in some other additives too.

    2. someone who understands!! I think there are about 10 different ways to write cinnamon derivates over here, and since we don't use numbers it's even more complicated. These "natural flavors" things are a real pain!

  4. Do you prefer Pepsi or Coca-Cola?
    ANSWER THE POLL and you could get a prepaid VISA gift card!

  5. A good example of this is with vitamin D supplements. The bioavailable chemical compound that is healthy and absorbable by our bodies is called vitamin D3 for short. Many food products are “enriched” with vitamin D2, which is not the natural life-giving form of the vitamin and it is simply excreted out through our urine instead of being absorbed into our cells. organic msm crystals


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